Another great charm of Barbados is its British-like culture. Nicknamed “Little England”, in Barbados you’ll find that cars drive on the left side of the road, British-style roundabouts are everywhere, ladies like to socialize by taking afternoon tea, and refined Bajans play cricket and polo in the grassy fields. Perhaps Barbados’ isolation from the rest of the Caribbean – some 100 miles east of the Antilles – has allowed it to foster and preserve its British character.
Barbados was one of the few Caribbean islands not discovered by Christopher Columbus. It was originally inhabited by peaceful Arawaks but later taken over by the fierce Caribs and the Amerindians during the 16th century. The Portuguese were the first Europeans to discover the islands when they were attempting to reach Brazil. The named it Barbados, which means “the Bearded”, after the island’s bearded fig trees. In 1625, Captain John Powell arrived and claimed Barbados for England. A settlement was soon established, which later welcomed British loyalists who fled from the English Civil War, which pitted military leader Oliver Cromwell against King Charles I. The first Parliament convened on Barbados in 1639. Since then, the island has remained British. During the 17th and 18th centuries, sugar plantations were established on the island and slaves were brought over to work them. In 1966, Barbados obtained full independence from Britain, although it remains a Commonwealth nation to this day.
Attractions by Region
The capital of Barbados is Bridgetown, a center of more than 100,000 people. All roads in Barbados lead to and stem from Bridgetown, making it the perfect gateway to the island. The town has some colonial churches and buildings, including a synagogue that was built in the mid-17th century.
On the outskirts of Bridgetown, you’ll find the historic Garrison Savannah, which has a line of 19th century military buildings, as well as the Barbados Museum which exhibits a collection of artifacts and art highlighting the history and culture of the island.
A few other notable attractions in Barbados include the Harrison Cave at St. Thomas where you’ll find a limestone cave that can be explored. At St. Lucy, you’ll find the sea cavern known as Animal Flower Cave. If you like scenic walks through woodlands, the Welshman Hall Gully may be the perfect tonic. Be sure to check out the nearby Amerindian Museum while you’re at it.
On the east coast of Barbados, the feature destination is St. John’s Church where you’ll find one of the most beautiful areas on the island – one that is dominated by hills and coastal shores.
Be sure to visit St. Joseph, home of the Andromeda Gardens with its lush tropical flowers and botanic gardens. Hilltops in St. Joseph like Gun Hill also provide spectacular scenic views of the island and coast.
In the southern region of the island sits St. Philip’s Parish, which boasts the Barbados Park Zoo. Within the parish are the towns of St. Philip, St. Peter, and St. John, which feature a number of old estates that are open to the public including the St. Nicholas Abbey in St. Peter, the Sunbury Plantation in St. Philip, and the Villa Nova in St. John.
The food in Barbados is sumptuous, highlighted by seafood delicacies prepared with a Bajan twist. Enjoy lobsters, shrimp, red snappers, sea eggs, king fish, dorados, and crane chubbs. Other specialties include East Indian dishes like the jug-jug, which is made of guinea corn and peas, the roti, which is a pancake filled with curried meats, and the conkies, which are banana leaf wraps of raisins, coconut, cornmeal, pumpkin, and sweet potatoes. And of course, the rum in Barbados is prized as one of the best in the world.
The beach is the playground for Bajans and tourists. You can enjoy swimming, scuba diving, windsurfing, and other water-related endeavors. Besides water sports, Barbados also offers golfing. Its Sandy Lane Golf Course hosts the annual Barbados Amateur Open Golf Tournament in October. Biking, tennis, polo, cricket, and squash are also popular pursuits.
The night scene in Barbados is lively and sophisticated. Most of the happening clubs and bars are in Bridgetown. The hotels also have revues and nightclub entertainment. At the Careenage, you’ll also find party cruises. Wherever you go, however, you’ll be pampered by fun Bajan music and dancing, and yummy rum drinks.